Himmelblau und Morgenrot by Uschi Jeffcoat

How do you describe the color of the sky?

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This summer my creative focus has been on color study, observing and learning descriptors, qualities and names. Many of the techniques were based off of a wonderful older book titled Watercolor Technique by watercolorist Rex Brandt. The introduction provided such an accurate and beautiful description of painting in the medium that I knew this was a man to learn from.

Brandt Excerpt.jpg

I ordered a copy of this man’s writings for my personal library simply because of this one quote.

The artist’s feelings and thoughts cannot be readjusted, buried or hidden. (Rex Brandt)

Paper and water carry the painter’s emotion through the tiniest bit of pigment. Yet the choice of pigment matters.

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These included studies in color, transparency, layers and value. I played in washes and observations. I visited museums and spent time outdoors soaking in hues throughout the day.

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Versions of color studies can be seen within the newly opened Bauhaus Museum in Weimar. People love a color wheel. My appreciation for color studies began last summer with a visit to the Cooper Hewitt’s exhibition, “Saturation:The Allure of Science and Color”. (Also, reason number 1000 why I believe education should be pursuing STEAM and not STEM programing.)

As Fall approaches, I will be revisiting my summer explorations.

My sky studies were my favorite portion of this summer color study. I’m thinking of sharing these studies through a type of watercolor challenge series on Instagram, because they were so fun.

Which leaves me with how do you describe the color of the sky?

I’m still not sure I can describe the color accurately by pigment color. You?

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Noon Sky.jpg
Evening Sky.jpg
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9 Eggs: Inspired by Christopher Robin by Uschi Jeffcoat

These nine eggs were made using materials found in my backyard and easter egg dye. I was reminded of a few childhood treasures through the process. Things I wish I could have held on to a little bit longer.

The How: I adhere the leaf to the eggs by using hosiery squares and bread ties. They are then dipped in dye and set to dry for about 30 minutes or so. (There are several videos online featuring the process. If you’d like to try it a quick google search will get you started.)

I love making these because each one is like an unexpected gift, especially as they are unwrapped. And I appreciate their resemblance to watercolor paintings.

Wishing all a Happy Easter and enjoyment of the Spring season.

Even Artists Have Seasons by Uschi Jeffcoat

I am incredibly grateful for a recent artist talk by the remarkable Alice Ballard. It was a reminder to me that there are seasons. I painted a LOT in the past two years, yet I still have so many ideas to put on paper.

flowering quince

Studio guilt.

It’s a real condition. The inner critic is so loud sometimes. And mine even speaks in two languages!

Why aren’t you in there in the mornings before work or at least a few minutes after work? Was ist denn los mit dir???

Alice reminded me that even if one isn’t producing, an artist is mentally always creating and processing new ideas, thoughts and work through their daily encounters. (All the emoji praise hands!) She spoke to exactly where I am ... and extended the grace I needed to hear. That these seasons provide the material for the works ahead.

And I love that.

I’ve discovered that my studio rhythm includes painting more through the months of April-December, while January-March tend to be times for where I am more in tune to the bookkeeping, reading and studying type of work. And so that is what I have been doing.

My Spring Shop is now open online. It will be open through May. I hope to add to it a bit in the weeks ahead. Putting all the works together helped me realize how productive the last two years truly have been.

Take that, Studio Guilt.

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Silvester and Art Goals by Uschi Jeffcoat

Silvester is another name for New’s Year Eve in Germany (owing to St. Sylvester’s feast day on Dec. 31). The Germans will also wish you a guten Rutsch or a good slide into the New Year.

I hope you’ve had a good “slide” into the New Year. I happen to love this time of year, because I tend to be a reflective person. And I enjoy making plans and goal setting as I look back.

This past Spring I studied eggs and the nest structures of the backyard birds.

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I watched all these backyard birds. The nest building, the feeding, the nest cleaning, and more feeding. Toil, yet with birdsong in between.  

And that sums up my hope for 2019. More birdsong in between.

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To be occupied with a gladness of heart in the midst of the day to day.

Birdsong.

For those of who who might be wired a bit like me, here are a few questions I ask myself at the beginning of each year as I set a few creative goals. They help me set my day to day. Some are from a great workshop I attended two years ago. Others are from books I’ve read.

  1. What makes me feel successful as an artist?

  2. What are my roles and my goals? Is my time and are my commitments directed towards them?

  3. Why do I make art and to what end?

  4. Is my work career driven or mission driven? Is it about recognition or impact? Ego driven or vision driven?

  5. What do I want to create this year? Why?

  6. What do I want to learn this year? Why? How?

I’m still working through my answers to a few of them. For more information on the workshop visit Artist U. It’s a good one for those exploring creative careers.

Happy 2019!

Picture of an Educator by Uschi Jeffcoat

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Six years ago, I left the classroom. A year and a half ago I returned. It is a profession which keeps me connected to people, yet also allows me the luxury of time for family.

But it is not easy work

Recently, I read The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. In the novel, the portrait takes on the aging and sins of the man. And I thought about the strength that educators show in the midst of stress. Not only theirs but also that of the students. Does the outside depict the reality?

To me, the American Robin symbolizes spring, new beginnings, children playing and hope. This image to me captures a great unsettling I feel at the moment. School shootings are becoming normal, low pay is an insult to the profession and the hours are long. In what profession does one begin their day manning a metal detector shortly before entering a classroom to shape hearts and educate minds?

So I painted all the words I feel but cannot say. Recognizing that bleeding heart conversations are damask political curtains we hang.

Keeping up with the Joneses by Uschi Jeffcoat

I love an idiom. And the culture it can capture.

"Keeping Up With the Joneses" is spot on American. To me it describes what happens when the American Dream becomes grotesque. When the pursuit of happiness and freedom leads to a warped and twisted captivity.

Keeping Up With the Joneses, Watercolor, 22" x 30"

Keeping Up With the Joneses, Watercolor, 22" x 30"

The idiom finds its origins in a 1913 comic strip by the same title. Arthur R. Momand was the creator and the term made its way into a few silent animations.

Keeping Up With the Joneses, Watercolor, 22" x 30"

Keeping Up With the Joneses, Watercolor, 22" x 30"

Ranging from the accumulation of stuff that quickly loses its luster, sick social graces, self-glorifying chatter, and debt beyond measure - it is a pattern of behavior to appear on equal social-economic footing or ground.

Appearances were significant in my childhood home. I wonder if it was simply my mother's German perfectionism or her attempt to never appear "less than" our fully American counterparts?

Most recently I saw this pull within myself as my children wrestled with their college choices. Was I (or my family)  "less than" because they made one choice over another?  Did my children feel that way?

But these were essentially the accoutrements that appeal to all people who are not actually rich but who want to look rich, though all they manage to do is look like each other: damasks, ebony, plants, rugs and bronzes, anything dark and gleaming-everything that all people of a certain class affect so as to be like all other people of a certain class. And his arrangements looked so much like everyone else’s that they were unremarkable, though he saw them as something truly distinctive.
— Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilych

der Brombeermann by Uschi Jeffcoat

I grew up with folklore and fairy tales. 

A Brombeermann is the symbol figure of the town of Wanfried, Germany. Some say this dates back to August 30, 1608 when Wanfried became a "city". A stipulation for city status perhaps included a provision for Moritz der Gelehrte - The deliverance of blackberries in the mornings to his Schloß in Eschwege when he was in residence.

der Brombeerman

Another version includes a beautiful story.

I am reminded of mythology as I read it. You can find it in a book written by Wilhelm Pippart, first printed in 1939, titled der Brombeermann. Wilhelm Pippart was a teacher and to me his writing is delightful to read. Maybe because his writing reminds me of the manner in which I was told and read fairy tales, with vivid detail and on occasion rhyme.

book excerpt

In the introduction Wilhelm Pippart is referred to as a Heimatdichter. In English, a "regional writer" but the German word Heimatdichter denotes more a person who drafts prose, poetry and collects stories of heimat. The book is a collection of tales and poems featuring characters such as sprites, fairies, gray ladies and magical books set in woods filled with moss, waterfalls and flowering fields. 

Here is my brief and loose retelling in English:

A dwarf was watching over Frau Holle's jewels. (Her most favorite of the dwarves.) He was most intrigued by her pearl and diamond necklace. As he was playing with this magical strand, it caught upon a rosebush and broke. But where each pearl and diamond rolled - strawberries, raspberries, currants, blueberry and blackberry bushes sprouted. Blackberries in the greatest abundance. A spell had been cast.

The only way to turn them back into their original form was to gather them all by day's end and before the owl was heard. The dwarf quickly accepted this quest to make amends for his mistake. Frau Holle encouraging him to not lose courage and to arm himself with patience and endurance as he set out.

blackberries

Quickly he set out upon his way, taking a cane basket upon his back to fill. He sprinted from bush to bush claiming the berries as his basket became heavier and heavier upon his back. Then at the end of the day. As dusk approached, every berry was in the basket except for one last full blackberry which remained. As he reached to pluck it from its height, the sun set and the owl was heard. Immediately the basket which had been full emptied.

This repeated itself day after day. The dwarf became ancient. Moss grew in his hat and throughout his knee length beard. His clothes became worn and tattered. The only thing which remind new was the basket he carried upon his back. 

Each day the dwarf kept his courage and went about his task only to be baffled by day's end. Throughout this time, berries fill the land mimicing the reflective jewel tones found within the magical necklace.  

After a thousand years had passed, Frau Holle returned to the dwarf, now known as der Brombeermann- the blackberry man. Sharing his burden, she reached and picked the last berry before the owl's voice was heard. Immediately a ray of jewel like colors radiated from the basket, covering the land. Her necklace was returned to its original state. They say you could hear elves burst forth in song in celebration of the Brombermann.

It is now said that the people of Wanfried take upon themselves the diligence and perserverance of the Brombeermann. I suppose I love the story so much because it is a piece of home to me.

Wanfried

I'm sure many versions of this tale exist. This year, I had the opportunity to see and hear a portion set to music. A childhood friend composed a beautiful piece. It is written in the old dialect of Wanfried and was sung this year in the Evangeliche Kirche of Wanfried. Enjoy!